Delivering 600,000 hot, nutritious meals to more than 4,000 homebound seniors a year is an enormous undertaking that requires the help and compassion of thousands. Full-time staffers from Meals on Wheels, board members, food service professionals and more than 2,500 meal delivery volunteers make it happen. It’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.
Meals On Wheels Delaware chair J. Robert Gibson welcomed hundreds of well-dressed guests to this year’s highly anticipated Celebrity Chef’s Brunch in the great hall of Bank of America’s Bracebridge III building in Wilmington for part two of a foodie’s dream weekend. Mr. Gibson proudly related that the affair has become a national-caliber event that has raised more than $5 million since its inception 12 years ago—$600,000 last year alone.
Two stunning models greeted guests: Claire Wheelan, wearing a short strapless dress with cream lace and a stain sash topped by an oversized, daisy-dotted pink mesh hat, and Jade Lockett, in a tulle pouf dress with a light jade green halter top and a wide-brimmed spring bouquet hat. Both beauties are stylists at Salon Pasca in Wilmington.
In a sunny corridor lined with fine art, we turned a corner only to meet the aromas of Sunday brunch: bacon of several nationalities, fresh-squeezed citrus, blueberry-stuffed baked goods and rich coffee, as well as the auditory excellence of the Philip Berger Quartet.
Where to start? United Distributors’ peach Bellini made with Domaine Chandon Brut supplied an easy answer. From there it was a short leap to the beef Wellington with bacon cream and quail egg. Was it a dream or the artful vision of Domaine Hudson’s executive chef, Jason Barrowcliff? Both. Owners Tom and Meg Hudson were busy greeting and serving guests in what quickly became the first glad-to-be-waiting line. Tom, as well known for his Ralph Laurenesque wardrobe as his excellent wine bar-restaurant, has managed to meld his love of both. Anyone who visits his establishment wearing a pocket square or ascot receives a discount.
Next door at Magnolia’s of Charleston, South Carolina, Rick and Tina Betz sampled their first tastes—spicy shrimp and tasso sausage over creamy grits. Did they enjoy? Rick responded with a silent smile we took as a yes. Tina, director of cultural affairs for the city of Wilmington, was more effusive. “I’m just glad the chef, Donald Drake, has a Southern accent. You have to have one to make grits properly,” she said.
The Hotel du Pont area, presided over by executive chef Patrick D’Amico, was a required stop. His pan-seared pekin duck breast (pekin is a breed of duck, not a misspelled city in China), served over risotto-style potato with a balsamic truffle syrup, was delicious.
On the next Bellini break, we bumped (literally) into fashionistas Jocelyn Kaminski, a UD education major who wore a royal blue, hip hugging mini over leggings and strappy cork platforms, and her friend Kristina Ruggerio, a makeup artist at Houpette in Greenville, who wore a strap-topped black mini dress with an Empire waist in a graphic pink and magenta floral print and teetered on cross slingbacks. Both wore fresh spring break tans and bright white smiles.
We joined MOWD volunteer Melinda Hamilton at Delebrity chef Dan Butler’s table to sample Deep Blue chef Matt Crist’s crispy skinned mullet with saffron-mussel sauce and Toscana’s mezzaluna pasta pillows filled with butternut squash, pancetta and sage. It should be said that Dan’s relentless contributions to the success of the Meals weekend do not go unnoticed by anyone.
Gary Gunderson, kitchen cabinet chair of Meals From the Masters, had a quick chance between bites to inform us that the fundraising goal for Friday night had been exceeded. Did you know that one donation of $75 will feed one senior for one a week? Comforting news. Also comforting was the Kobe beef and artisanal cheese with white truffle oil by chefs Tara Kazimir and Randy Donze of Michele’s at Dover Downs. Mark Kessler of Newark summed them up with a one-word review: “Yummy.”
Orillas Tapas Bar and Restaurant owner-chef Julio Lazzarini attended as a guest. “It’s really great to hang out with and observe peers from all over the world and bask in the wonderful treatment and respect we [chefs] get from Meals on Wheels and everyone.” The last word went to Butler: “It is all about raising money to feed many nice people, but it’s also nice to be treated like a star.”
Page 2: We Flipped For Unzipped
We were greeted on the red carpet by the striking Barbizon models Calef Henson and Whitney Camden, who was coifed with zip-on, zip-off hair extensions for this year’s Fashion Unzipped, the Wilmington Flower Market’s pre-event fundraiser and fashion show at University & Whist Club. The highlight of the afternoon was a runway presentation worthy of New York’s Fashion Week.
Flower Market executive director Mary Warren, fashion show chair Carol Cole and many board members contributed countless hours and endless energy to make it happen. They were supported by several area businesses and sponsors. Back in January, for example, owners Perry and Flavia Scarfo of Perry Anthony Salon (which did Whitney’s bangin’ zip extensions) held a cut-a-thon to benefit the event. Then there was the University & Whist Club itself and its magnificent turn-of-the-century mansion. “We’ve hosted a lot of fabulous events, but this is a first—unzipped for sure,” said manager Margaret Reilly. (We wished she’d also told us the secret ingredient the pastry chef uses in the desserts.)
Professor Collen Moretz and students in the UD fashion and apparel studies program created original dress designs for the afternoon’s Red Dress Couture Competition. The students’ sketches were displayed for the guests, who voted on their faves, and the dresses themselves were modeled in the show. It was like the Flower Market’s own “Project Runway.”
The fourth and final fabulous VIP sponsor was Joan Bernard of Barbizon in Wilmington and Philadelphia, which produced and choreographed the exciting fashion throwdown. More than 200 stylish guests sipped (champagne), quipped (with each other), dipped (crudité), and flipped for the clothing, jewelry and accessories. We spotted Diana Miller of Newark unzipping her handbag to purchase a gutsy turquoise bracelet and delicate gold hoops from the girls of shopmamie.com.
Pre-show, drink ticket allocator Mary Warren—our newest BFF—unlocked the Unzipped room for a peek at the LED-lined runway. Wow. Think Madonna concert. It was a great chance to ask the students about their celebrity-inspired gowns.
Sarah App created a pretty-in-punk long-to-short dress trimmed with piping as a nod to Gwen Stefani. Travis Watkin had Sara Chauk in mind when he designed a detachable-convertible train-to-cape affair. Travis likes Sara’s “playfulness.”
Lea Anita Cavazzini’s diaphanous, dress of layered shantung and chiffon was Bollywood beauty meets Grecian goddess. It was made with Natalie Portman in mind. First place went to Barry Grossman, whose tailored gown trailed handcut orange petals.
The affair was a stunning success. “It was right up there with the Paris shows,” said UD prof Jo Kallal, who attends them with students each year. “It even had more energy and audience involvement.”
We are pretty sure that even in gay Paris, female impersonator and funny girl-guy Scott Mason as Dame Edna would have had them splitting their hand-stitched seams with his campy comedy on topics such as flimsy toilet seat protectors, Joan River’s plastic surgery and shopping for her “affordable” gowns in Macy’s plus-size petites section.
You won’t want to miss next year’s Wilmington Flower Market—its 90th. We expect something more than unzipped. We expect nothing less than unbuttoned, untied, unVelcroed—maybe even unhinged. Ciao for now.